Thoughts About International Air Travel


One of the big benefits of a cruise vacation is the safety factor; being able to see multiple destinations in the safety and comfort or your secure cruise ship.  In the past, cruise lines have avoided calling in Mexico when drug lord related crime dictated that a prudent choice.  Now seen as safe, ships are returning, calling at the beautiful ports of Mexico on a regular basis.  Problems in Israel caused Costa Cruises to modify the itinerary of Costa Pacifica, substituting overnight calls at Istanbul, Turkey, and one-day calls at Volos, Greece, for the originally scheduled overnight calls at Ashdod and Haifa, Israel.  In the wake of recent world events including the Malaysia Airlines tragedy and ongoing military action on the Gaza Strip, international travelers have concerns about flying; anywhere.

“Will the airspace I will fly in be safe ?”
“Shall I postpone my trip ? ”
“What if flights are canceled ?”

All good questions that prepared travelers need answers for.

Defining Airspace
One effective way to know if your flight will fly over areas of concerns is to see the path your aircraft will take before you decide to board it.  FlightRadar24.com enables that, allowing users to enter an airline flight number then see the flight path of that flight’s latest trip.  Another web site, FlightAware.com, allows searching for flights by departure and destination, bringing more flights to compare on basically the same point to point path.

Normally international airlines make decisions about flight paths every day, based on weather forecasts, winds and projected fuel consumption.  Already flying out of the way to avoid severe weather, airlines might also avoid trouble spots around the globe; perhaps now more than ever.   Tracking the flight you will be on a month from now, it should be fairly easy to see if it avoids areas of concern; if it flys in those areas at all.

In An Abundance Of Caution– Realize that international air carriers don’t want their planes to get shot down and will take proactive steps to avoid putting travelers in harms way.  We saw this as first airlines then the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) canceled flights to Tel Aviv in response to fighting in the region.

Cancellation, Disruption Or Gut Instinct
Regardless of the reason, any change to your pre-booked travel plan has the potential to be a time-consuming, money-burning situation that can be avoided in many cases.  We recommend being prepared for any reasonably anticipated event

A Case For Travel Protection– Travel Insurance is available from a variety of sources and can provide coverage for Trip Cancellation if disruption causes complete cessation of your flight or cruise for 24 or more consecutive hours. Cancel for Any Reason insurance works for the gut instinct that you should not be flying.  Trip Interruption can reimburse pre-paid, non-refundable trip costs. Trip Delay coverage can kick in if your trip is delayed 6 or more hours.  Even Missed Connection coverage is available to cover unexpected delays.

Where to buy it?  First, check with your existing insurance agent; the person or company that might handle your auto, home, health or life insurance.  They may have something for you at a reduced rate or be a trusted source for direction.  Also check with your credit card company; many offer travel insurance of some kind when travel is purchased with their card.  There may also be advantages to buying travel protection through the cruise line, but all lines are a bit different in their coverage.  Your travel agent will come in handy on this topic.

A Possible Case For Buying Air Through The Cruise Line
Depending on the cruise line and the international air pricing option selected, cruise travelers may have some protection against disruption to international air travel.  Some, but not all, provide a layer of protection not available if buying air on our own. “If any delays or cancellations jeopardize your plans, we work quickly with the airline to get you on the next available flight for your cruise,” says Royal Caribbean International of their ChoiceAir program.

…But Buyer Beware
On the other hand, buying air via the cruise line comes with a couple caveats that travelers don’t particularly care for.  Generally speaking, the cruise line guarantees to ‘get you there’ only, leaving the final choice of flights up to them, regardless of the fare option selected.  The cruise line can and does change flights, and not always because of a airline flight schedule change.  Users of cruise line airfare quickly learn the difference between “booked” air and “ticketed” air, often when trying to select seats on flights they thought were bought and paid for.  Booked air guarantees the rate and flights from point A to point B.  Between when you add it and flying, they will try to find flights priced lower, pocketing the savings.  Surely there’s nothing wrong with that if we agree to the price charged at the time we add that air.  It’s just the way it is done.

Frankly, we have several international trips scheduled between now and the end of the year (see Future Events) and are not concerned about this issue.  Because we are prepared.

Yes, we have travel insurance that covers all of the above.
Yes, we have flexible travel plans, always looking for  3 hours time between flight connections when possible.
Yes, we travel with carry-on luggage only, enabling easy switching to alternative flights

Adding to our confidence we go back to the closed environment provided via travel by cruise ship.  On oceans or rivers, we know that cruise travel is a safe way to go that enables seeing multiple destinations while limiting air travel.

Traveling internationally soon?  Here are some tips and an update on new TSA rules that could slow down connections: